Remember the Old Songs

by Pamela J. Marshall

for high voice & piano

Duration ~20 min.


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A rhapsodic treatment of favorite tunes, dedicated to the composer’s mother. The singer delivers the tunes in an almost straightforward way, while the pianist explores many different paths implied in the songs. The movements are:

  1. Shenandoah Echo, based on the traditional song Shenandoah
  2. Juanita and Caroline, based on the song Juanita by Caroline Norton which surrounds a setting of Norton’s poem “I do not love thee”
  3. Whistling Dixie, based on the Southern minstrel tune Dixie

The composer writes:

“I remember the songbook, copyright 1909, with the oldfashioned-looking music on our piano rack. Juanita was one of my favorites. The book didn’t mention the composer; only an arranger. I had no idea Juanita‘s composer and author was Caroline Norton, an activist for women’s rights in the mid 1800s. I discovered her most famous poem “I do not love thee”. I’ve combined music from the song Juanita with portions of the poem.

Shenandoah is another tune I’ve always loved. The longing in the words, the halting phrases, and pining melody have always tugged at my heart. The original tune has a flowing-halting effect, akin to water, in its melody and I’ve worked with that, stretching it and fragmenting it.

Dixie is from the old book. It was one of my father’s favorites and he played it often. There was a page turn in the middle of this spirited tune, so to play it fast without stopping in the middle, he had to memorize it. He said it’s the only music he ever memorized.

“I conceived of these songs for tenor, because my mother has always enjoyed fine tenor voices. Other voices certainly can sing these songs too. This music is a birthday gift to my mother, who has always listened to our family’s music-making with appreciation and love.”


Listen to excerpts from a performance by tenor Vincent Metallo and pianist Karen Sauer

1. Shenandoah Echo

2. Juanita and Caroline

3. Whistling Dixie


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